What Lies At The Heart of Packaging And Its Role in Customer Loyalty?

To answer this question, Loyalty360 talked to Danielle Sauvé, Director of Customer Insights and Experience, Danaher Product Identification Platform.

“The tension we see in packaging is that loyalty is driven by two things that seem like opposites: Consistency and relevance,” she explained. “So, product packaging needs to appear consistently (similar design, shape, colors) over time to be recognized by consumers. Brands also have to adapt to trends to stay relevant, so the consumer believes the brand reflects her changing needs and expectations. Otherwise, a competitive product with a novel or more relevant design may induce trial and brand switching. Brands get caught in a tug-of-war between staying the same and changing when it comes to packaging. If they are too consistent, they’ll become stale or dated. If they change too much, they risk becoming unrecognizable. The critical balance to strike is between consistency and relevance to produce loyalty.”

Sauvé shared some mistakes that brand leaders make with packaging that destroy loyalty.

“I’ve heard executives complain that, sometimes, a brand leader (full of ambition) takes over a brand and immediately wants to revolutionize the product packaging, to make her or his mark on the brand in a tangible way,” she said. “This has to be done carefully and with enough consistency to retain consumer loyalty and not destroy it with too dramatic a change. Good packaging design firms can play a moderating role because they deeply understand the importance of designing for evolution vs. revolution and when each approach is best leveraged. It can destroy loyalty if the product and/or brand becomes unrecognizable.”

Sauvé said that the classic example of this is the infamous Tropicana design refresh, “which was so disruptive that loyal consumers could not find the product on the shelf, quickly causing the brand leaders to pull the refreshed packages and revert to the previous design.”

Danaher Corporation is a global science and technology innovator committed to helping its customers solve complex challenges and improving quality of life around the world. Its family of world class brands has leadership positions in some of the most demanding and attractive industries, including health care, environmental, and industrial. With more than 20 operating companies, Danaher’s globally diverse team of about 67,000 associates is united by a common culture and operating system, the Danaher Business System.

“Product packaging is often the only physical marketing channel that the consumer physically touches,” Sauvé said. “They see ads with their eyes and hear audio branding with their ears, maybe they touch their phone screen to find information or peruse a product page, but product packaging at retail the point of purchase is tactile, which engages shoppers differently than other channels. Whether online or in-store, product packaging is the first impression of product quality that the brand expresses to the consumer. For brands, packaging is an enormous part of the consumer experience.”

Because product packaging is also usually the only branded element at the point of use, product packaging has nearly exclusive impact on the consumer experience of the product itself, Sauvé noted.

“Product packaging needs to get re-connected with the consumer journey,” she added. “It seems to me that in the race to adopt digital capabilities, sometimes consumer goods brand leaders focus their attention on the new digital touch points like social media, programmatic AdTech, and marketing technology. This can cause them to forget the power of the product experience and leave physical marketing channels out of their customer journey maps, disconnected from the marketing supply chain. This can create a disconnect between the brand promise (digital marketing) and the consumer experience of the product (via packaging). Leaders can reconnect product packaging with marketing and leverage their product information and imagery across all channels for a more unified consumer experience.”

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